Nintendo Switch shortage is being worsened by auto-purchase bots

Polycount

Posts: 3,011   +589
Staff member
In context: When Nintendo's ever-popular Switch console first hit the market, the company struggled to keep units on store shelves. Now, during the Covid-19 epidemic, it seems Nintendo is facing a second wave of demand. Over the course of March and April, Switch stock seems to have plummeted.

This has made it incredibly difficult to grab one of the consoles for your family to enjoy during the long hours of isolation that many of us now face. According to a report from Motherboard, the reason for this shortage is not just human demand (though that's part of it, in a way), but robots.

You read that right: scalpers are using a tool called "Bird Bot" to automatically purchase Switch consoles en masse, and at speeds that no human could possibly compete with. As soon as a digital storefront restocks its supply of Switches, these individuals snag them and then attempt to sell them at up to double (or more) their original price.

And, apparently, it's working: Motherboard says some Switches have been auctioned off for as much as $750, which is quite the difference compared to their usual $300 MSRP.

Bird Bot is completely free to use, and it was designed specifically for Switch buyers. It's not the most accessible software in the world, setup-wise; you'll need some basic tech knowledge to get it up and running. However, thanks to the detailed installation guides provided by Bird Bot's creators, anyone with the cash and drive to begin flipping Switches can do so.

Obviously, ordinary customers aren't exactly pleased with this trend. One individual even took to building his own Switch from scratch, and published a guide explaining how to follow in his lead. At the end of his guide, he left a small note to the Switch resellers out there: "...screw you if you are one of the bad guys making a buck off of a crisis."

Whether you agree with the use of Bird Bot to resell marked-up Switches or not, it doesn't look like the practice will stop anytime soon. Even if sites like Walmart and Best Buy (prime targets for Bird Bot users) build protections against Bird Bot, a new alternative will likely take its place soon enough.

Permalink to story.

 

brucek

Posts: 1,124   +1,666
Fundamental problem is lack of supply and that doesn't change with or without Bird Bot. Lack of supply means not enough to go around means some people disappointed. The only thing that changes is the specifics of the complaint about why they didn't get them, which can be either "I didn't queue up overnight to be first on line when door opened" or "I didn't want to pay that much" or "I didn't get lucky" or some other variation thereof.

Meanwhile, I think it's safe to say that Nintendo is gearing up to make more, they will be available soon enough, and thankfully there are many other options for video gaming and home entertainment.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,722   +7,665
"Buy-bots" have been a scourge to would be customers of concert tickets for many years. They can redial a phone number or reload a page a whole hell of a lot faster than a human with a any type phone, or reload a page faster as well. Plus, they're relentless.

This often leaves would be event goers to the mercy of scalpers, which is compounded by the considerable widespread availability of counterfeit ducats.
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 1,025   +768
"Buy-bots" have been a scourge to would be customers of concert tickets for many years. They can redial a phone number or reload a page a whole hell of a lot faster than a human with a any type phone, or reload a page faster as well. Plus, they're relentless.

This often leaves would be event goers to the mercy of scalpers, which is compounded by the considerable widespread availability of counterfeit ducats.


Relentless!

Listen, and understand. That The Bots are out there.They can’t be bargained with. They can’t be reasoned with. They don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until they by all the Switches
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 1,025   +768
"Buy-bots" have been a scourge to would be customers of concert tickets for many years. They can redial a phone number or reload a page a whole hell of a lot faster than a human with a any type phone, or reload a page faster as well. Plus, they're relentless.

This often leaves would be event goers to the mercy of scalpers, which is compounded by the considerable widespread availability of counterfeit ducats.

You still don’t get it, do you? They’ll find them. That’s what they do. That’s all they do! You can’t stop them!
 

Awesomer555

Posts: 6   +1
Fundamental problem is lack of supply and that doesn't change with or without Bird Bot. Lack of supply means not enough to go around means some people disappointed. The only thing that changes is the specifics of the complaint about why they didn't get them, which can be either "I didn't queue up overnight to be first on line when door opened" or "I didn't want to pay that much" or "I didn't get lucky" or some other variation thereof.

Meanwhile, I think it's safe to say that Nintendo is gearing up to make more, they will be available soon enough, and thankfully there are many other options for video gaming and home entertainment.
That's false because the bird bot buys them as soon as they are available online and its not website limited meaning the have the bird bot active on multiple different websites at one time so they cause the issue for shortages means the in-store consoles were bought out too
 

brucek

Posts: 1,124   +1,666
That's false because the bird bot buys them as soon as they are available online and its not website limited meaning the have the bird bot active on multiple different websites at one time so they cause the issue for shortages means the in-store consoles were bought out too
Total supply = units manufactured by Nintendo. Neither Bird Bot nor anyone else has any ability to change this fundamental limit.

When Nintendo is manufacturing enough units to keep stocks shelved, there is no opportunity for a scalper like Bird Bot. They can buy as many as they can afford, but most customers will just buy the next unit after that on the shelf as long as its kept stocked.

When there are not enough units to keep shelves stocked, scalpers like Bird Bot step in. Their function is to change the method by which the limited supply of units is rationed. Instead of being rationed by luck / waiting on line, they are now rationed by who will pay a higher price. Even without a clear scalper such as this case, that is pretty much the standard way in which demand is equalized to supply throughout our economy - by raising the price until demand at the higher price equalizes to supply (it works the same way in reverse too, with price drops happening when supply exceeds demand.)

Anyway, Nintendo's output will soon enough catch up to demand, and Bird Bot users may even find themselves with a chunk of excess inventory they'll have to sell at a discount.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,722   +7,665
Completely agree. Unfortunately people with too much $ and little patience won't make little Timmy wait if he/she cries loud enough.
Then "Little Timmy's" parents should spend some of that excess money for a good therapist for the "Timster", whatever sex himself or herself believes itself to be.
 

doakills

Posts: 9   +11
Well son's bday coming up and I was looking for one. Despite the heart ache of the supply issue I ended up with something special the entire family likes anyway. So one drive later to a southern Oregon store I found a diablo edition switch for 279$. New in box, nothing disturbed in it. Pretty impressed.
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 2,014   +1,204
Total supply = units manufactured by Nintendo. Neither Bird Bot nor anyone else has any ability to change this fundamental limit.

When Nintendo is manufacturing enough units to keep stocks shelved, there is no opportunity for a scalper like Bird Bot. They can buy as many as they can afford, but most customers will just buy the next unit after that on the shelf as long as its kept stocked.

When there are not enough units to keep shelves stocked, scalpers like Bird Bot step in. Their function is to change the method by which the limited supply of units is rationed. Instead of being rationed by luck / waiting on line, they are now rationed by who will pay a higher price. Even without a clear scalper such as this case, that is pretty much the standard way in which demand is equalized to supply throughout our economy - by raising the price until demand at the higher price equalizes to supply (it works the same way in reverse too, with price drops happening when supply exceeds demand.)

Anyway, Nintendo's output will soon enough catch up to demand, and Bird Bot users may even find themselves with a chunk of excess inventory they'll have to sell at a discount.

Except once the cycle gets started, it can sometimes be pretty hard to break. See the various 'flash crashes' at the stock market for example. This is why they added those circuit breakers to the market, to stop the algos from trading and give a human time to step in and correct their sell/buy cycles.

In this case, everyone getting locked in all at once, combined with the release of couple highly anticipated games, triggered a sudden surge in demand for Nintendo consoles (adults who play, games, adults now locked inside with their own kids all day). This got the scalpers involved. Until the demand falls, there is no amount of units Nintendo could reasonably make that would break the cycle - they would have to 'stock bomb' all the stores, all at once, worldwide, with enough that anyone who wanted a device could buy at MSRP, even with the scalpers buying at the same time. It just isn't possible.

Either stores like Target, Best Buy, and Amazon need to institute purchase limits (with multi-week cool downs) to shipping addresses and payment accounts, or this will go on until lockdown ends.
 

Gus Fring

Posts: 66   +19
1 or 2 Switch consoles per name\address\payment method.

Solved
Like they havent tried everything?.. even with Concert tickets .. practice should be that tickets cannot be re-sold ever. A few ppl will lose out ... but it might end this desperate affair. What happens when its not Switches or Delivery Slots, but needed medical supplys.
Winner takes All cannot be allowed. 1% get anything, 99% scrabble over the Crumbs.